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In Brief: Google's Smart Contact Lenses

By Norman Chan

And some recommended reading if you're curious about their potential.

A big story we didn't get to cover last week was Google's announcement of its smart contact lens project, being developed by University of Washington engineering professors Brian Otis and Babak Parviz as low-power biosensors to detect low glucose levels in diabetics. The technology, described in detail in this Re/Code article, squeezes a tiny tear-activated glucose sensor and chip between biocompatible materials to make up contact lens. As Re/Code states, it's an application of Moore's Law that utilizes shrinking transistor sizes to make the tiny embedded chip possible. But as cool as a "smart contact lens" may sound, Techcrunch notes that it's a technology that researchers have been developing for a while, including Parviz himself in a collaboration with Microsoft Research. In terms of how this technology may be applicable to non-diabetics, Otis and Parviz says they're exploring embedding LED lights in their lenses for visual feedback--research we've written about before. And Om Malik's pragmatic analysis of Google's announcement is an opinion worth reading--as someone with diabetes, he wonders why Google's researchers didn't take alternate approaches that may be more accessible, like a smart patch. Malik points out that diabetic patients are actually recommended to not wear contact lenses at all.